Two hundred dead and more than 1500 hundred wounded, four trains destroyed, human bodies so horribly torn apart that they could only be recognised by their DNA - this is the terrifying balance sheet of the terrorist attack on the so-called 'Train of Death' which violently shook the morning of 11 March in Madrid.
As with the attack on the Twin Towers of 11 September 2001, this is an act of war. And once again, the victims are essentially among the defenceless civilian population, especially the workers: those who, like on every other day, like everywhere else, crowd into suburban trains in order to get to work; children of workers who, like on every other day, like everywhere else, take the same trains to get to high school or university. The simple fact that you live in the residential quarters on the city outskirts and have to take public transport to get to work makes you an easy victim of terror, and makes it possible for this terror to take on such huge and macabre proportions.
Like September 11, March 11 is an important date in the history of terrorist massacres. Not only is this the biggest massacre suffered by the Spanish population since the civil war of 1936-39, it's also the biggest terrorist attack in Europe since the end of the Second World War.
The bourgeoisie of diverse nations is now shedding torrents of crocodile tears over the victims. It has proclaimed three days of national mourning in Spain; it is inundating the media with special news broadcasts, it declares minutes of silence, it calls demonstrations against terrorism. For our part, as we did after September 11, we deny the hypocritical bourgeoisie and its pliant media any right to cry over the murdered workers, because "The ruling capitalist class is already responsible for too many massacres: the awful slaughter of World War I; World War II, more terrible still, when for the first time the civilian population was the main target. Let us remember what the bourgeoisie has shown itself capable of: the bombing of London, Dresden, Hamburg, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the millions of dead in the concentration camps and the gulags.
"Let us remember the hell visited on the civilian population and the routed Iraqi army during the Gulf War in 1991, and its hundreds of thousands of dead. Let us remember the daily bloodletting that is still going on in Chechnya, with the complicity of the Western democratic states. Let us remember the complicity of the Belgian, French, and US states in the Algerian civil war and the horrible pogroms in Rwanda.
"And let us remember that the Afghan population, today living in terror of America's cruise missiles, has suffered twenty years of uninterrupted warfare...These are just some examples among many of capitalism's filthy work, in the throes of an endless economic crisis and its own irremediable decadence. A capitalism at bay." ('In New York and all over the world, capitalism sows death', International Review 107).
Far from attenuating, this barbarism has grown worse; this horrible list has since been supplemented by the second Gulf war, the incessant slaughter in the Middle East, the recent killings in Haiti, the terrorist bombings in Bali, Casablanca, Moscow. And now we have to add the attack on Atocha station in Madrid to the list.
The attacks of March 11 are not an attack on 'civilization', but an expression of the real nature of this 'civilisation' of the bourgeoisie: a system of exploitation which oozes poverty, war and destruction from all its pores. A system that has no other perspective to offer humanity than barbarism and annihilation. Terrorism is not a bastard child of capitalism, it is its legitimate child, in the same way as imperialist war; and the more capitalism sinks into the final phase of its decline, the phase of decomposition, the more terrorism is destined to become more savage and irrational.
Terrorism: a weapon of war between bourgeois factions
One of the characteristics of the decadence of capitalism is that imperialist war has become the system's permanent way of life, with the consequence that "these petty bourgeois classes have completely lost their independence and only function as a mass of manoeuvre and support in the confrontations between different factions of the ruling classes both within and outside national frontiers" ('Terror, terrorism and class violence', International Review 14, 1978). From the 1960s up to now, the evolution of terrorism fully confirms this characteristic as an instrument used by the various factions of the national bourgeoisie, or by each imperialism, in their struggle against internal rivals or competitors on the imperialist arena. Terrorism is indeed a favourite child of capitalism, carefully nourished with human blood by its backers. Terrorism and imperialist conflicts have become synonymous. During the 60s and 70s, the bourgeoisie didn't hesitate for a moment to use the 'selective' assassination of political leaders in order to settle its internal arguments. Let's recall the bomb that blew Carrero Blanco sky high (Blanco was a prime minister under the Franco regime). This action - the high point of ETA terrorism - was used by the bourgeoisie to accelerate a change of regime in Spain. The bourgeoisie has also not recoiled from using terrorism to destabilise the Middle East, as was the case with the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981 or Israel's Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. When it comes to defending its interests against rival national factions or competing imperialisms, the bourgeoisie has no scruples about provoking blind slaughter among the civil population. To give but one example, there is the bombing of Bologna station in Italy in 1980, which left 80 dead. For a long time this was attributed to the Red Brigades, but in fact it was carried out by the Italian secret services and the Gladio network installed by the USA in Europe to counter the influence of Russian imperialism. Throughout this whole period, terrorism was above all used in the context of the imperialist conflict between the two superpowers.
A pure product of the decomposition of capitalism
The tendency towards generalized chaos has determined imperialist conflicts since the end of the 80s, the period in which capitalism has entered its phase of decomposition (note 1). The framework constituted by the confrontation between the two imperialist blocs set up at the end of the Second World War gave way to the reign of every man for himself (note 2). In this context terrorism has more and more become a weapon of the competing powers. On the one hand their official war machines have increasingly used terrorist methods, aiming less and less at military targets and more and more at the civilian population, as in the wars in the Gulf. At the same time, the horrible chain of attacks by 'unofficial' terrorist groups against a defenceless population was inaugurated by the bombs in Paris in September 1987 and reached a kind of paroxysm with the two planes filed with civilians which crashed into the Twin Towers and left almost 3,000 dead; but it continued with the bombs in Bali, Casablanca, Moscow and now Madrid. It would be a complete illusion to think that this barbarism is going to stop. As long s the working class, the only social force which can offer an alternative perspective to capitalist barbarism, does not finish once and for all with this inhuman system of exploitation, humanity will continue to live under the permanent threat of new and increasingly violent outrages, new and increasingly destructive wars.
As the decomposition of this system advances, the more it will spawn irrational and irresponsible factions, feeding the terrorist groups, the warlords and the local gangsters who are able to acquire increasingly destructive weapons but also more and more backers to profit from their crimes. After the fall of the Two Towers we wrote: "It is impossible to say with certainty today whether Osama Bin Laden really is responsible for the attack on the Twin Towers, as the US state accuses him of being. But if the Bin Laden theory does turn out to be true, then this is really a case of a petty warlord escaping from the control of his former masters" (IR 107). This is a typical expression of the generalisation of barbarism: quite apart from knowing which imperialist power or faction of the bourgeoisie benefits from this or that terrorist action, the latter tend more and more to escape the plans laid out by those who initially conceived them.
Who profits from this new crime?
As with the apprentice sorcerer, the 'creature' tends to become uncontrollable. As we write this article, we lack really concrete elements, and given that it is not possible to have much confidence in the bourgeois media, we propose to apply our framework of analysis and our historic experience and pose the question as follows: who profits from the crime?
As we saw earlier, terrorism and imperialist confrontations are today blood brothers. The attack on the Two Towers amply profited US imperialism, which was able to compel its former allies, now its main rivals, like France and Germany, to give it full support for its military campaign aimed at the occupation of Afghanistan.
The emotion provoked by September 11 also allowed the Bush administration to get the majority of the American population to accept the second Gulf war in 2003. This is why it's quite legitimate to ask whether the incredible 'lack of foresight' of the American secret services before September 11 was not the result of an actual will to 'let things happen' (note 3). As far as March 11 is concerned, it's clear that they in no way benefit the US, quite the opposite in fact. Aznar was a firm supporter of US policy (he was part of the 'Azores Trio' - Spain, US and the UK - the members of the UN Security Council who met up to call for the second Gulf war); but Zapatero, who succeeded him after his victory of the PSOE at the elections of 14 March, which owed much to the Atocha bombings, has already announced that he will withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq. This is a slap in the face for the American administration and a definite victory for the French-German tandem that now leads the opposition to American diplomacy.
Having said this, this failure of American policy in no way represents a victory for the working class, as some would have us believe. Between 1982 and 1996, when it was at the head of the government, the PSOE proved itself to be a zealous defender of capitalism. Its return will not put an end to the bourgeoisie's attack on the proletariat. Similarly, the diplomatic success of Chirac and Schroeder is a success for two other loyal defenders of capitalism, which will bring absolutely nothing to the working class.
But worse still: the events we have just seen have made it possible for the bourgeoisie as a whole to score a major ideological victory, because it has strengthened the lie that the antidote to terrorism is 'democracy', that elections are an effective way of ending the anti-working class or warlike policies of the bourgeoisie, that pacifist demonstrations are a real barricade in the way of war.
Thus, the working class has not only suffered a physical attack with all the dead and wounded of March 11, it has also suffered a political attack of the first order. Once again, the crime has profited the bourgeoisie.
This is why, faced with terrorist barbarism, an expression of imperialist war and capitalist exploitation, there is only one answer...
To put an end to capitalism!
With dozens of bodies still not identified, with dozens of immigrant families (29 of the dead and 200 wounded are immigrants), who don't dare look for their parents in the hospitals or the morgues for fear of being deported, the bourgeoisie is creating huge obstacles to the working class reflecting on the causes and consequences of this attack. From the first moments after the explosions, even before the state's emergency services arrived on the scene, it was the victims themselves, the workers and children of the working class traveling in the 'trains of death', or those waiting at the station, or living in the neighbourhoods of Santa Eugenia or El Pozo, who set about helping the wounded, or finding shrouds for the dead. They were entirely animated by a feeling of solidarity. This feeling of solidarity was also expressed by thousands more who gave their blood or offered to help at the hospitals, but also by the firemen, the social workers and health workers who voluntarily worked overtime despite the dramatic lack of resources resulting from state-imposed cuts in civil protection and health and safety.
Revolutionaries, and the whole world proletariat, must proclaim loud and clear their solidarity with the victims. Only the development of the solidarity implicit in the struggle of the working class can create the basis for a society in which such abominable crimes can be abolished once and for all. The indignation of the working class towards this atrocity, its natural solidarity towards the victims, has however been manipulated by capital towards defending the latter's interests. In response to the carnage, the bourgeoisie called on the workers of Spain to demonstrate "against terrorism and for the Constitution"; it called on it to close ranks as Spanish citizens to the cry of "Spain united will never be defeated"; it appealed for a massive vote on Sunday 14th so that "such acts of savagery will never be repeated".
The doses of patriotism injected both by the right (Aznar declared that "they died because they were Spanish") and by the left ("if Spain had not taken part in the war in the Gulf, these attacks would not have happened") are aimed only at convincing workers that the nation's interests are their interests. This is a lie, a shameful and cynical lie! A lie which also aims at swelling the ranks of pacifism which, as we have always shown in our press, has never stopped wars but always serves to derail the real struggle against the real cause of war - capitalism.
Capitalism has no future to offer humanity except its destruction through increasingly murderous wars, increasingly barbaric terrorist attacks, growing poverty and famine. The slogan raised by the Communist International at the beginning of the 20th century perfectly summed up the perspective facing society when capitalism entered its period of decadence and it remains as valid as ever: "the epoch of wars and revolutions" whose only outcome can be "socialism or barbarism".
Capitalism has to die if humanity is to live, and only one social class can serve as its gravedigger: the proletariat. If the world working class does not succeed in affirming its class independence, if it doesn't fight first for the defence of its specific interests, and then for the destruction of this decaying society, humanity will be overwhelmed by the proliferation of conflicts between bourgeois states and gangs, which will not hesitate to use all the most unspeakable means at their disposal.
NotesSee the "Theses on Decomposition" from International Review 62. Back